31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, Kristy, NonFiction, Self Help

The cure for everything : untangling twisted messages about health, fitness, and happiness by Timothy Caulfield, 234 pages, read by Kristy, on 05/30/2013

indexCA6OFCENIn this book, Timothy Caulfield takes on the ginormous task of sifting through all of the health information out there in order to present his audience with genuine, unbiased facts on how to improve health. He debunks common weight loss misconceptions like “exercising helps you lose weight.” According to his research, exercise stimulates appetite, causing people to eat as much or more calories than they burn exercising. Exercising alone rarely results in weight loss. He also bashes workout methods such as yoga and Pilates, saying that they provide little in the way of exercise. In order for your workout to be beneficial, it needs to involve intense interval training. As for diet, he states what many have stated before him: dieters must eat smaller portion sizes and avoid poison-foods (junk food). While I liked the humor sprinkled throughout this book, I didn’t find it particularly revolutionary. But perhaps that’s because I’m a bit of a health-freak and I try to stay on top of health-related information. To someone relatively unacquainted with the health world, this book could be pretty informative.

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Kristy

Push: a Novel by Sapphire, 141 pages, read by Kristy, on 05/25/2013

indexCANBTJUPThis novel will shock and amaze its readers with Sapphire’s depiction of the tough realities of the life of 16 year old Precious Jones. Abused by her mother, and pregnant with her second baby by her father, Precious has no one to turn to until she enters the Each One Teach One program for nontraditional students. With the help of her teacher, Ms. Rain, and her peers, Precious attains the education, confidence, and courage she needs to succeed. This novel contains extremely harsh language and situations, so readers beware! I would recommend this novel to any non-squamish reader looking for a quick, engaging, tear-jerking novel.

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Courtney, Teen Books

Breath by Jackie Morse Kessler, 336 pages, read by Courtney, on 05/23/2013

Finally! The last book in the Riders of the Apocalypse series, wherein we get to see what things look like from the perspective of Death! We’ve already met War, Famine and Pestilence and the humans who took up their mantles. Death has been a constant throughout, but we’ve never really gotten to know him. Guess I didn’t see it coming when this book’s main crisis is the fact that Death has determined that it is time for it to end. And by “it”, I mean “existence”. Which is bad, particularly if you happen to like living. Now it’s up to a guy named Xander to try and talk Death out of killing himself (and everything else). Xander’s remarkably “normal” for one of the humans in this series. He’s got friends and no major psychological issues. He even has a girlfriend, who he is desperately in love with. So much so that he’s changed his college plans to dovetail with hers. He just needs to tell everyone, including his parents, that he’s not going to Carnegie Mellon on scholarship after all. The main complication in his life is the new baby in the house. Sleep deprivation gets to Xander; blackouts ensue. And then a guy that kind of looks like Kurt Cobain shows up on Xander’s balcony. Xander intuitively knows this guy is Death. And Death informs him that he is owed a boon, for Xander had once shown Death kindness. At this point, Xander realizes the tell-tale signs of suicide and demands to know Death’s entire story, in the hopes of delaying what seems inevitable.
This is one of those series where the premise really shouldn’t work, but for some reason works exceptionally well. There’s a lot to chew on here, both philosophically and emotionally. There’s a sense of humor in the face of universal hardship (at times, Kessler’s Death reminds me of a male version of Gaiman’s Death from Sandman). Each one of the books in this series comes across as completely unique and never, ever formulaic. I never know where the story is going to go, but I always know I’m going to enjoy the ride.

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Courtney, Graphic Book

The Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song by Frank M. Young and David Lasky, 192 pages, read by Courtney, on 05/19/2013

If you’ve never heard of the Carter Family, you’re missing a huge part of American music history. Countless acts have professed influence from the timeless melodies crafted by the Carters. This graphic novel seeks to tell their story. It is, by turns, a love story, an all-American rags-to-riches tale, and an homage to traditional music. It’s a great story, but I’m not sure if the graphic novel format is ideal. Granted, it does make for a very accessible introduction to the Carter Family (and even includes a CD, though the CD didn’t have many of the songs most frequently mentioned, which would have been nice), but it feels like it glosses over a lot of details. The artwork is decent, but not outstanding. I suppose the purpose is really to distill what would otherwise be an unwieldy family biography, so in that sense, the graphic format works. Perhaps not for those who already know quite a bit about the Carter Family, but definitely a decent introduction to a new fan.

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

Delusion by Laura L. Sullivan, 352 pages, read by Courtney, on 05/19/2013

Twin sisters Fee and Phil Albion have been performers their entire lives. The family legacy is that of magic shows and illusions. Now, the time has come for the sisters to unveil their biggest illusion in front of an audience at the House of Delusion. All goes well until the Germans begin bombing London in what is now known as the London Blitz. The family and theatre are relatively unharmed, but the girls are sent to the countryside for their safety. This is fine for Fee, who hates any sort of violence and relishes the idea of reading her Austen in a more pastoral setting. Phil, on the other hand, is furious that she is going to have to be too far away to help in the war effort. Their parents are on their own mission to do their part for England, but Fee and Phil are technically still too young to take an active role in the homefront efforts. The village the girls are sent to is so remote that the government hasn’t even gotten around to rationing or performing air raid drills. Phil immediately sees an opportunity to labor on behalf of her country and attempts to cobble together a makeshift home defense unit. In the process of exploring the area, Phil stumbles upon something entirely unexpected: a magic school in the middle of nowhere. And not the illusion-based “magic” that the Albion family practices – real magic. What will this discovery mean in the grand scheme of things? Far more than anyone could have ever predicted.
This is a fun and unique take on both history and magic. Phil and Fee are charming characters, though perhaps a bit on the overly earnest side. The plot was a bit predictable at times, but the concept is novel enough to not let that bother me too much. The pacing is fairly brisk and even the more serious moments have a bit of humor to them, making this a great choice for a summer read.

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Teen Books

Quintana of Charyn by Marlina Marchetta, 516 pages, read by Courtney, on 05/12/2013

I always hate to see a favorite series come to an end, but it’s also nice to have come closure to a tale. In this, the final book of the Lumatere Chronicles, the story lines from both preceding books finally merge to reveal the full story. This book picks up where Froi’s story left off. There’s a vast power vacuum in Charyn that the local warlords seek to exploit. Quintana is in hiding with her unborn child. Froi is recovering from his injuries and heading back to Lumatere. Isaboe and Finnikin are doing their best to hold onto a tenuous peace in the aftermath of the curse.
I don’t want to get too into the details, because to do so might spoil things for a reader. When it comes right down to it, this series is one of the most sophisticated and well-written fantasy series I’ve ever read. The characters are utterly unique; not a stock character amongst them. Good and bad tend to be relative terms in this world, much as our own. Marchetta doesn’t waste time rehashing previous plot points. For those who had to wait for what seemed like eons between each book, a reread of the first two books may be in order. I found that I had difficulty remembering some of the finer details. Each of the first books can stand alone, but this one really does require careful reading of its predecessors to be fully appreciated (I kind of hope that future editions include a family tree). Those who are willing to put forth the effort, however, will be richly rewarded.

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Graphic Novel

The Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman, 208 pages, read by Courtney, on 05/05/2013

I first remember encountering The Books of Magic sometime in the mid-’90s, when I was just starting high school. I had exactly one comic from the series that I read over and over when I ran out of Sandman to read. Flash forward many, many years later and here I am with the power to purchase graphic novels for my library. Ordering a new edition of Books of Magic? Total no-brainer.
At the age of 12, Timothy doesn’t believe in magic. Then he’s approached by some very strange and slightly sinister men who first turn his yoyo into an owl and then take turns showing magic and magicians at various points in time and space. In theory, Timothy will have a choice as to whether or not magic will be a part of his life, but it’s fairly clear that he may not have nearly as much control over the matter as he’d like to believe.
Fantastic artwork, coupled with Gaiman’s inimitable prose, makes for exceptionally good comic reading. Fans of the Sandman universe may also be pleased to see a few familiar faces along the way.

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books

OCD, The Dude, and Me by Lauren Roedy Vaughn, 240 pages, read by Courtney, on 05/02/2013

Danielle has always had a tough time fitting in. She has extreme OCD and, in spite of going to a special school for kids with “unique learning profiles”, she feels like a pariah and does her best to avoid people altogether. This frustration and isolation comes out in her writing, so her English teacher insists on sending her to a class where she will have to learn “social skills”. It is here that she meets another outcast, Daniel, who is a major fan of The Big Lebowski and teaches Danielle the benefits of a Dudist philosophy.
So, I read this book mainly because I’m a huge Big Lebowski fan and was extremely curious to see how the film might be worked into the plot line of a YA book. Imagine my disappointment then, when I slowly realized that the Dude wouldn’t make any kind of appearance until the last third of the book. Not that the book wasn’t enjoyable to read. It is a very quirky tale about a girl who deals with some serious mental health issues. Danielle has a very supportive family (she’s adopted, however, and often feels as though she must be a disappointment to her perfect-seeming parents) and dedicated teachers. The entire story is told through Danielle’s papers for her English class (life writing exercises), journal entries and letters (both to and from Danielle). This definitely shows off some of the eccentricities in Danielle’s way of thinking, but may alienate the unprepared reader. We never really get a full objective view of any situation, but as Danielle is painfully self-aware, we still feel like we get a pretty good idea of what’s going on. I still ultimately wish that there was more Lebowski discussion. I mean, when a movie like that is referenced in the title of the book, one would that movie to play a much larger role in said book. Oh well, it’s still an interesting glimpse into the mind of someone struggling with a very challenging mental health issue.

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa

The Naked Mole Rat Letters by Mary Amato, 266 pages, read by Lisa, on 05/28/2013

When her father begins a long-distance romance with a Washington, D.C. zookeeper, twelve-year-old Frankie sends fabricated email letters to the zookeeper in an attempt to end the relationship.

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Lisa, Mystery

Leave the Grave Green by Deborah Crombie, 253 pages, read by Lisa, on 05/23/2013

When Connor Swann, the dissolute son-in-law of renowned and influential Sir Gerald and Dame Caroline Asherton, is found floating in a Thames River lock, the circumstances eerily recall a strangely similar tragedy. Twenty years ago, the Ashertons’ young son, Matthew, a musical prodigy, drowned in a swollen stream while in the company of his sister Julia — Connor Swann’s wife.

Police Superintendant Duncan Kincaid and Sergeant Gemma James quickly discover that Connor’s death was no accident, and that nothing in the Asherton family is as it seems. Connor, though estranged from Julia for more than a year, still lives in her London apartment, where his exploits with women and gambling suggest plenty of motives. The Ashertons are far more attached to Connor than to their own daughter, and these are only the first of the secrets that haunt the suspects. New lies cover older lies, as Kincaid finds himself dangerously drawn to Julia Swann, and Gemma must confront her own troubling feelings for Kincaid.

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Informational Book, Lisa, NonFiction

Wombats by Barbara Triggs., 39 pages, read by Lisa, on 05/14/2013

Presents, in text and photographs, the habits, life cycle, and natural environment of the Australian wombat, one of the world’s largest burrowing animals.

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Lisa, Mystery

Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear., 303 pages, read by Lisa, on 05/12/2013

Maisie Dobbs must catch a madman before he commits murder on an unimaginable scale It’s Christmas Eve 1931. On the way to see a client, Maisie Dobbs witnesses a man commit suicide on a busy London street. The following day, the prime minister’s office receives a letter threatening a massive loss of life if certain demands are not met-and the writer mentions Maisie by name. After being questioned and cleared by Detective Chief Superintendent Robert MacFarlane of Scotland Yard’s elite Special Branch, she is drawn into MacFarlane’s personal fiefdom as a special adviser on the case. Meanwhile, Billy Beale, Maisie’s trusted assistant, is once again facing tragedy as his wife, who has never recovered from the death of their young daughter, slips further into melancholia’s abyss. Soon Maisie becomes involved in a race against time to find a man who proves he has the knowledge and will to inflict death and destruction on thousands of innocent people. And before this harrowing case is over, Maisie must navigate a darkness not encountered since she was a nurse in wards filled with shell-shocked men.

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Lisa, Mystery

The Mystery of the Silent Friends by Robin Gottlieb, 154 pages, read by Lisa, on 05/09/2013

What secret lies hidden in the mechanical doll? Why are two men so eager, suddenly, to buy them? And isn’t it strange, that both men have exactly the same name? Nina has always loved her father’s antique shop–full of odd mysterious things. And the old dolls have always been like her friends. But something very strange is going on! Muffin and Nina aren’t sure what it is, but they do know that the silent friends are in danger…
31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Lisa, Mystery

All Shall Be Well by Deborah Crombie, 259 pages, read by Lisa, on 05/06/2013

Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James investigate the bizarre murder of a woman who was dying anyway, her body ravaged by disease. As they sift through the woman’s history, a troubling puzzle begins to take shape.

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Lisa, NonFiction

The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan, 362 pages, read by Lisa, on 05/03/2013

The tale of a simple act of faith between two young people – one Israeli, one Palestinian – that symbolizes the hope for peace in the Middle East. In 1967, not long after the Six-Day War, three young Arab men ventured into the town of Ramle, in what is now Jewish Israel. They were cousins, on a pilgrimage to see their childhood homes; their families had been driven out of Palestine nearly twenty years earlier. One cousin had a door slammed in his face, and another found his old house had been converted into a school. But the third, Bashir Al-Khairi, was met at the door by a young woman called Dalia, who invited them in. This act of faith in the face of many years of animosity is the starting point for a true story of a remarkable relationship between two families, one Arab, one Jewish, amid the fraught modern history of the regio. In his childhood home, in the lemon tree his father planted in the backyard, Bashir sees dispossession and occupation; Dalia, who arrived as an infant in 1948 with her family from Bulgaria, sees hope for a people devastated by the Holocaust. As both are swept up in the fates of their people, and Bashir is jailed for his alleged part in a supermarket bombing, the friends do not speak for years. They finally reconcile and convert the house in Ramle into a day-care centre for Arab children of Israel, and a center for dialogue between Arabs and Jews. Now the dialogue they started seems more threatened than ever; the lemon tree died in 1998, and Bashir was jailed again, without charge. The Lemon Tree grew out of a forty-three minute radio documentary that Sandy Tolan produced for Fresh Air. With this book, he pursues the story into the homes and histories of the two families at its center, and up to the present day. Their stories form a personal microcosm of the last seventy years of Israeli-Palestinian history. In a region that seems ever more divided, The Lemon Tree is a reminder of all that is at stake, and of all that is still possible. Sandy Tolanis the author ofMe & Hank:A Boy and His Hero, Twenty-five Years Later. He has written for theNew York Times Magazineand for more than 40 other magazines and newspapers.As cofounder of Homelands Productions, Tolan has produced dozens of radio documentaries for National Public Radio and Public Radio International. His work has won numerous awards, and he was a 1993 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and an I. F. Stone Fellow at the UC-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, where he directs the school’s Project on International Reporting. A National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist   In 1967, not long after the Six-Day War, three young Arab men ventured into the town of Ramla, in what is now Jewish Israel. They were cousins, on a pilgrimage to see their childhood homes; their families had been driven out of Palestine nearly twenty years earlier. One cousin had a door slammed in his face, and another found his old house had been converted into a school. But the third, Bashir, was met at the door by a young woman called Dalia, who invited them in. This poignant encounter is the starting point for a true story of two families, one Arab, one Jewish, amid the fraught modern history of the region. In Bashir’s childhood home, in the lemon tree his father planted in the backyard, he sees dispossession and occupation; Dalia, who arrived as an infant in 1948 with her family from Bulgaria, sees hope for a people devastated by the Holocaust. Both are swept up in the fates of their people, and and their lives form a personal microcosm of more than half a century of Israeli-Palestinian history. “This truly remarkable book presents a powerful account of Palestinians and Israelis who try to break the seemingly endless chain of hatred and violence.

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Helen, Horror, Paranormal

Abandon by Blake Crouch, 416 pages, read by Helen, on 05/30/2013

On Christmas Day in 1893, every man, woman and child in a remote gold mining town disappeared, belongings forsaken, meals left to freeze in vacant cabins; and not a single bone was ever found. One hundred thirteen years later, two backcountry guides are hired by a history professor and his journalist daughter to lead them into the abandoned mining town so that they can learn what happened. With them is a psychic, and a paranormal photographer—as the town is rumored to be haunted. A party that tried to explore the town years ago was never heard from again. What this crew is about to discover is that twenty miles from civilization, with a blizzard bearing down, they are not alone, and the past is very much alive.

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Janet, Poetry

You Come Too by Robert Frost, 94 pages, read by Janet, on 04/23/2013

These are favorite poems for young readers by Robert Frost.  Being simple, direct, often outdoors related poems, this was a pleasent book to read.  Robert Frost looked with understanding on the people, animals, and scenery around him.  Many of his best-known poems are in this collection: “Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening”, “The Death of the Hired Man”, and “The Road Not Taken”.  He said that a poem “begins with delight” and that feeling runs through his poetry.You Come Too

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Janet, Poetry

Edna St. Vincent Millay - Selected Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay, 162 pages, read by Janet, on 04/23/2013

Edna St. Vincent millay was a very intellectual, sophisticated poet whose work involves a bit more deep thinking than most work I have been reading lately.  She projects unhappiness in many of her poems, perhaps from her feminist or political unrest with society, or her decline in health in later years.  She has been described as “a militantly political feminist” yet is able to present love as a passionate surrender in some poEdna St. Vincent Millayems.  Her poems asre not fast reading, but give much feeling and information as digested.

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

Ariel Bradley, Spy for General Washington by Vanita Oelschlager, 56 pages, read by Angie, on 05/27/2013

This is the story of how young Ariel Bradley became a spy for General Washington during the Revolutionary War. His job was to get into the British camp and find out how many men and weapons they had. Ariel does this by playing the country bumpkin, but it gets the job done. This is a very short book that only deals with this one incident. I kind of wish we would have found out more about Ariel and his family, but it was still interesting.

I received a copy of this book from the publishers on Netgalley.com

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

Titanic: Voices From the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson, 304 pages, read by Angie, on 05/28/2013

This is an excellent account of the short voyage of the Titanic. It covers everything from its construction to the aftermath. I especially enjoyed the first person accounts that were interspersed throughout the book. It helped make the tragedy come alive. I listened to the book on audio and it was wonderful. The narrator did a great job telling the story and distinguishing between the different people. There are a lot of interesting facts in the book which help shed light on how the tragedy came about. Some myths are dispelled…like the fact that the 3rd class gates were not locked as the rumors said. There are also amazing accounts of heroism until the very end. Many of the passengers and crew helped so many people only to perish themselves. Truly one of the great tragedies of our time.

2013 Sibert honor book.